Gryffon walked along the trail with the closest of his forest friends. The canopy of leaves and branches overhead allowed him just enough moonlight to keep his pace steady and sure.
"You canít be taking the goat seriously, Gry," said the owl. "I mean, who ever heard of a goat holding a seat on the council?"
Gryffon shrugged. "I only promised to present her application. Azreal and the rest of the Yew council can decide what to do from there. Besides, from what I see, a seat requires a great deal of stubbornness and who better than the goat fits-" Gryffon stopped suddenly, signaling the others to hold where they were. There it was again, a slight crackle of dead leaves off to the side and close.
Gryffon pulled the others close to him. "Something is tracking us," he told them in a whisper.
"Yes, I hear it now," said the chipmunk. "Sounds like an orc."
"I hear it too," the squirrel chimed in. "A whole party of orcs. At least ten."
"Itís not orcs," said Gryffon. "I think-"
"By the gods, itís trolls then," gasped the owl. "Weíll be eaten."
"No no, its not trolls either," said Gryffon. "Look, itís probably only-"
The owl started to wobble back up the trail towards Yew.
"Hey," hissed Gryffon, "where are you going?"
The owl did not turn around. "With trolls youíre going to need more arrows. Iíll be back."
"Chicken," Gryffon said.
"Yes?" asked the chicken.
"What?" asked Gryffon.
"You called me," said the chicken.
"I did? No, not you, the owl."
"Then why did you call me?" asked the chicken.
"Look, I didnítÖJust forget it. Hereís the plan. We hide in-"
Suddenly the brush right beside their huddle began to rattle. Something hidden within the shadow of a tree jumped out onto the trail.
With a scream, Gryffon and his friends leapt onto the intruder with fists flying and teeth gnashing. The scrum rolled about the trail, bouncing off tree trunks and large rocks.
From under the heap, a little voice squeaked, "Gry, itís me. Itís me."
Gryffon pulled himself out of the pile. "Toby?" he said, spitting out chicken feathers. "Toby, is that you?" Gryffon peeled animals off the pile until he uncovered the rabbit.
"Are you hurt?" Gryffon asked.
"Hurt?!?" yelled the rabbit. "Whatís the matter with you people? Are you crazy or something?" Gryffon tried to help the rabbit brush the dust off its tiny coat but Toby slapped his hand away. "I tell you, Samantha will hear about this." Toby stomped away then stopped and came back to the ranger. The rabbit smacked Gryffon in the leg with a scroll. "I, Toby, Favored Scroll Carrier of the Lady Samantha, blah, blah." The rabbit dropped the scroll and stormed away.
"Toby , wait," called Gryffon but it was too late. The rabbit disappeared into the forest. The ranger picked up the scroll and began reading.
"Good news?" asked the squirrel.
"The best," replied Gryffon. "Super Duper Lord Lynx has returned from his travels. Thereís talk of a picnic by the lake to hear his tale. Ready all who want to go. With the morning we hoist the sails and ride the sea to Trinsic."
"Uh, Gry," said the chicken, "the boat sank. Remember?"
The ranger scratched his chin. "Horses then."
"You gave them the winter off."
"Magic perhaps," said Gryffon.
The chipmunk shook his head. "Last time you tried, all you got was bad gas for a week."
"Please Gry, no magic", said the other animals together.
"We walk then", said the ranger. "I hope itís a long story."